In my opinion, the Post-It note is one of the simplest and cleverest inventions of the 20th century, but it was invented by a couple of dumbasses. Unlike most inventions, which are usually brought into being by geniuses as solutions to problems, the Post-It note was actually an accidental solution to a problem that nobody knew existed.
A research scientist at 3M called Spence Silver made a glue that didn’t stick very well. Why he did so remains a mystery, because it was apparently about as useful as a chocolate frying pan. Around the same time, Spence’s colleague Art Fry, who worked in product development at 3M, found that his pesky bookmark kept falling out of his hymn book in church. He used Spence Silver's glue to hold it in place temporarily and found that it left no marks on the paper. Then, as a test, they gave a bunch of secretaries at 3M pads of notepaper with this failed glue on the back to see what would happen.
Soon the notes were everywhere. Then they decided that the notes should come in various sizes for various uses and should be fluorescent yellow, pink, orange, blue and green - and behold, one of the most low profile yet useful inventions of the 20th century was born. In this case, they were the brilliant Spence Silver, who managed to invent an ostensibly useless glue, and the visionary Art Fry, who couldn’t figure out how to keep a bookmark in his hymn book even though everybody else seemed to manage just fine (and still do). This particular “they” did us all a favour.
However, there are countless other “theys” who make decisions that just make you want to pull your hair out. Like the location of the “caps lock” key on your computer keyboard for example. Right there next to the “A” key where we hunt-and-peck typists can easily hit it accidentally and type whole sentences in capital letters before looking at the screen. And they make it twice the size of the other keys just to help us hit it more often. Why don’t they make the bloody thing smaller and put it out of the way? How often do you use it anyway? And the little tiny invisible button on the side of your laptop that opens the DVD tray. Why don’t they make it big and red and put it on the top where you can see it? Why do they do this to us?\
In automatic cars, why did they decide we would push the gear stick forward to go backwards, and backwards to go forward? Why did they decide the bonnet (or hood) release in most cars would be hidden under the dashboard where you can’t find it? Why don’t they just put a button on the dashboard along with all the others? Same for the boot (or trunk) and fuel cap releases. I believe we have the technology.
They are mostly designers rather than inventors. The caps lock key is a great and necessary invention. They put it in the worst possible place and made it too big. The bonnet, boot and fuel releases are necessary parts of the wonderful invention that is the motor car. They decided these things would be located in places where only blind people would be able to find them.
But they seem to be having a competition. And it’s a competition to see who can design the most complicated, dangerous and impossible-to-use shower controls for hotel rooms. Some of these contraptions look like things you might find in a medieval torture chamber. Chrome levers, switches, taps and knobs that leave you confused and shivering while standing naked in the bathtub. And in many cases the temperature levers stick out far enough for you to accidentally knock them well into the red with your ass every time you turn round, thereby sending scalding hot water straight down your ultra-sensitive butt crack. It’s just plain evil. Come the glorious day, this particular “they” will be the first against the wall.